I have preached many sermons from the Gospel accounts about Palm Sunday. Today I want to step back and look at another journey into Jerusalem 1,000 years earlier. David is the author of Psalm 24. It is a psalm composed by him, some believe, as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the city of Jerusalem. More about that later… It is a Psalm of ascent with prophetic overtones…by that I mean it describes, and was sung by people, going into the city of Jerusalem.
If you would turn to Psalms 22-24 they actually form a trilogy. In Psalm 22 we see our Suffering Savior upon the cross. In fact it is possible that Jesus quoted this entire Psalm while He died. Psalm 23, of course, is the Shepherd with His flock. The most well known passage in the entire Bible. Finally, in Psalm 24 we have the Sovereign upon His throne. It is this little known Psalm we are going to study today. I believe this Psalm alludes to the event recorded by all the Gospels; Matt. 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12 called the Triumphal Entry which we celebrate on Psalm Sunday. How important is this event? By contrast, Jesus birth is only recorded in two of the Gospels.
Background of Palm Sunday:
Of course Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. The tax collector, Matthew, pretty much sums up the story, “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day, he will be raised to life’” (Matt. 20:17-19).
Today marks the day, 2,000 years ago, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. We know the story of the Triumphal entry as a kind of first-century version of a ticker-tape parade. Many in the crowd had witnessed the incredible miracle that Jesus had performed recently when he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead in a little town just a short distance away. Many other people had heard about His miracles and wanted to get a closer look. They were wondering, who is this man who has taken our nation by storm? There were also people there who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This was, ironically, lamb selection day in preparation for the Passover! Three years earlier John the Baptist had already identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29).
As Jesus rode into town on the dusty road those who were His followers spontaneously laid their coats in the road as a sort of a crude red carpet and spread out leafy palm branches and waved them as He passed shouting, “Hosanna,” which means “save us now.”
I have preached this procession under the title, “The Faces in the Crowd,” and note, there was another faction there that day. The jealous religious leaders who were looking for a way to eliminate their competition. They were the ones who insisted, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples, before they commit blasphemy!” Of course we know His answer, “If these should be hushed, even the stones would cry out as a witness to the truth that He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords!”
The real question of Psalm Sunday is if Jesus were to make His appearance today where would you be in the crowd? A curious onlooker? A delusional disciple? A cynical skeptic? A jealous antagonist? A waiting participant in His crucifixion? Or would you have recognized Him as the Lamb of God?
John 12:16 clearly states that even His most devoted followers failed to grasp the enormous significance of the event, “These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”
I suppose the Palm Sunday story in the Gospels is one of my favorite in all of Scripture. But today I have chosen to go back to the Psalms and study the King, His qualifications and His subjects from the events recorded by David in Psalm 24.
As I stated this Psalm is part of a trilogy. Scofield says Psalm 22 is the good Shepherd giving His life for the sheep, Psalm 23 is the great Shepherd tenderly caring for His sheep, and Psalm 24 is the chief Shepherd appearing as King to reward His sheep. He is our Savior, our Shepherd, and one of these days He will return as our Sovereign!
I am doing a series right after Easter on prophecy titled, “Iran vs. Israel – the Prophesied End.” Today’s study will prepare us for that series.
[Read Psalm 24]
This Psalm was written by David. As I said, 1,000 years before Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on lamb selection day. People often forget that there was no temple when David wrote his Psalms. He had no experience in a house of worship like you and I. He had to go 10 miles out into the country to see the Ark of the Covenant (a small gilded box which represented the place where God met with man.)
David desperately wanted to have the Ark as a center piece for worship near him in Jerusalem. So he and thirty-thousand Israelites went out to move it to the city. It may have been for this very occasion that David wrote the words of our text in Psalm 24, words that urge all of us to see the King, seek the King and serve the King!
There are two recurring questions in Psalm 24. The first is, “Who can ascend?” We can rephrase that question today, “Who can approach God?” or “How can we gain an audience with our Creator and Redeemer?” The second question is “Who is this King of glory?” These are essential questions…whether you were in the company of David, or in the crowd as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, or in this congregation today on Palm Sunday.
First, note with me…
1. HIS REGAL DECLARATION (VS. 1-2)
The first two verses really answer the 2nd question of the psalm, “Who is this King of glory?” He is…
A. The Owner of Everything!
“The earth is the Lord’s!” Think about what He owns!! Thomas Carlyle the Scottish historian wrote, “This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.”
He owns the earth and all the oil in the earth! He put the stars in their orbits. Man may try to harness the rivers, or focus the atoms to produce energy…but He holds it all together by His great power!
“…and everything in it!”
We don’t think about gravity, or the tilt of the earth to give us seasons, or even the magnetic field, rate of spin, tides…but all these things work together to sustain life. Why? Because He formed it to be inhabited!
B. The Originator of it all!
“He founded it upon the seas…” The reference is to the creation account in Genesis, when dry land emerged from the water.
We have talked about world views. The latest DNA research discounts the evolutionary notion that we all came from a single ameba and climbed out of the primeval ooze. Evolutionists may be scratching their heads, but they are not ready to concede that God created it all…for if He did, then the next verse would apply…!
2. HIS REDEMPTIVE DEMAND (VS. 3-6)
We have seen God’s declaration. If He owns everything and we are stewards of this planet, then there must be coming a day of accountability. So the inquiry is made…
A. Appeal – Who can approach God?
This is not just a question of existence, but really, “Who can ascend to the hill of the Lord?”
David had a reason for asking the question. If you remember, back in 2 Samuel 6, David had appointed Uzzah and Ahio (the first Japanese Jew), to escort the ark back to Jerusalem. So the day after the Sabbath they started moving the Ark back to Jerusalem. (That would be Sunday!) All went well for a time, but then we read in 2 Samuel 6:6, “When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah... David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”
David was so afraid, that the mission to bring the ark to Jerusalem ended right then and there. The ark was taken instead to a nearby home. And David penned these words, “Who can ascend?”
It would be easy for us to question this event too…. Weren’t David’s intentions good? Why didn’t God give him a little slack? Our problem is, we don’t understand the holiness of God.
Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
Job said in 34:10, “Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding: Far be it from God to do wickedness, And from the Almighty to commit iniquity.”
Habakkuk 1:12-13 states, “O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One…Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.”
God had given a prescribed way to transport the Ark, to preserve it’s holiness…as a place where God met with man.
“Who may stand in His holy place?” If the Lord would see only our sin, none of us could stand in His presence.
The question is valid! Who can approach God? We are not left without an answer…
B. Answer – The Pure in Heart! [read verse 4]
There is a way into God’s presence! He has provided a way for us to have clean hands and a pure heart.
Look closer at that Ark. Inside the Ark of the Covenant were kept the Ten Commandments, all of which God’s people had broken. Those Commandments were a constant reminder of the people’s sin. But over those tablets of stone, God placed a cover, known as the Mercy Seat. Just once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would sacrifice a goat and sprinkle its blood upon that Mercy Seat. By means of that blood, the Law was hidden from God’s eyes. Through a blood offering the sins of the people were covered! What is pictured in type in that ancient tabernacle, Jesus was ascending the hill of Jerusalem to do.
I quoted Matthew 20:17-19 earlier, “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.’” (Matt. 20:17-19).
What really happened on that first Palm Sunday? First of all, Jesus prepared to offer Himself to Israel as their long-awaited Messiah - King. But the sad fact is, the Nation of Israel rejected Him. But He came not only to offer them Himself, but also to give to every person the gift of salvation.
John 1:11-12 states, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
He made a valid offer…but knew He would be rejected so He finished out the week as the final Passover Lamb who willingly died for the sins of the world. Because of His death on the cross, and then His Resurrection, and Ascension into the presence of His Father…He now reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
That brings us to the last section of this Psalm…but first there is an apostrophe. What is an apostrophe? It is a punctuation symbol. But here it is a digression of thought…a pause. We find David pausing to think in this Psalm about what it means to have your sins forgiven and be able to stand in the presence of a holy God!
C. Apostrophe – Selah! [read verses 5-6]
A key word here is seek. Those who seek His blessing will be forgiven and blessed. Those who look to Him for salvation will be declared righteous. The Psalmist appropriately closes this section with Selah! There have been various understandings of that phrase. Here I think it means “Shout a Praise!” It’s sort of like a Yahoo wake up call!
We have seen His redemptive demand…now…
3. HIS ROYAL DOMINION (VS. 7-10)
Before the apostrophe we see the God of salvation preparing a way for sinners to come into His presence. Now we see an interesting construction in the next four verses. There are two cry’s for the gates to be opened, and two entrances mentioned.
Verses 7 and 9 ask that the ancient doors be opened. Where are these doors? What portal is being opened? The gate that David was looking at, and the gate he prophesied would be opened is the gate to the city of Jerusalem. The word Jerusalem means “place of peace,” literally “foundation of shalom,” which was more than a little ironic, because Jerusalem has never been a place of peace. But there are two times in history it will be a place of peace.
A. His First Entrance
Verses 7 and 8 remind us that Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, not to conquer, but to die so that we could have peace with God. The Psalmist reminds all the heads of nations and religions to take note. “Who is this King of glory?” He is the Lord strong and mighty, coming in to do battle. But we laugh because how can you win a war on a donkey?
But Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world, and His battle was not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities and powers, and the rulers of darkness, and with Satan himself. This is the battle that was waged on the cross.
Don’t discard the military language. God will not negotiate with evil or gradually curtail it. This is a war He will win with one decisive act. He will conquer death with life. Notice who will gain the victory… “the King of Glory shall come in!” He will conquer! With His blood He will purchase a place in heaven for all those who look to Him for salvation. With His life He will provide the way for living to all who believe!
I found this on the WayMakers web site, “Rejoice in the sheer wonder of heaven’s Champion. He is the Lamb who was slain. Victorious but utterly humble. Triumphant but never exacting terror. Powerful without ever coercing His beloved. He has conquered by the power of His love.”
In the first part of this Psalm we are seeking the King. But in the last four verses we see the King comes to us. Someone has said, “Religion is man trying to find God, but Christianity is God finding man!” The King has come! He has opened heavens gates to all who want to enter. “God so loved, that He gave…” The first time Jesus entered the City of Shalom He came to offer peace with God!
But there is a 2nd entrance mentioned. It is almost identical to the first, so some have thought of it as a repeat for emphasis. But the Holy Spirit has shown me that it is a reference to another entrance of the King.
David was not only prophesying about Palm Sunday, but about a day in the future when Jesus will come again, this time to bring permanent, lasting peace to the city by that name!
B. His Second Entrance (verses 9-10)
His 2nd entrance will not be on a donkey. He will not be coming to do battle. Notice, battle is not mentioned in verse 10. He is coming as the Lord of hosts. This is no human figure, but the Son of God. He is coming to claim His throne and His rightful crown! He will be coming on a white horse.
That Eastern gate is closed today. That gate has come very close to being opened three times in the past century. I can tell you with certainty that when that gate is opened, and you see a King enter, it is time to fall down and worship Him. He will be the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!
I can almost picture Him coming in while Mahalia Jackson is singing, “Who is the King? The Lord strong and mighty He is the King!”
What is the symbolism of the everlasting doors? Perhaps they remind us of the principle of a narrow way. There is only one door to heaven. What is on the other side is hidden from our view. Heaven is real, but it is hidden from our experience. We must come to Him by faith!
He is coming! One of these days He will open the gates and fill the earth with His glory. The Scriptures suggest His coming will be suddenly.
Psalm 24:7-9 constitutes one of the most profound yearnings in all the Bible. It’s a prayer that the King would come. It’s a cry for heaven to open; for the most desired One to come. This passage gives you permission to hope.
This desire is expressed in Revelation 22:20, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
The phrase King of glory reminds us that this King is worthy of being glorified above all others. He is utterly praiseworthy. When the King enters through those ancient gates will you recognize Him? Will you be with Him?
What does this mean to us on Palm Sunday? Like the crowd on that first Palm Sunday, we find our hearts yearning for a King to come and rule with justice and establish peace. We want a God who is approachable, but realize our hands are not clean, our hearts are not pure. But we are grateful that when our King entered Jerusalem the first time He offered Himself, and He took our sin. And now, when God looks at us He sees the blood shed for our sins and He is satisfied! He says, “Enter into my kingdom and live forever!”
There have been nearly 2000 Palm Sundays since that day. I don’t think there will be too many more before we will be shouting “Hosanna.”
On this Palm Sunday can you say “Hosanna?” Which means, “Save us now!” He is the Savior. Is He your Savior? The battle was won, the victory is certain. On this Palm Sunday we say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Just as sure as He created this world, and owns it, one of these days He will come to fill it with His glory.
Maranatha - “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”